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Community / Housing association makes changes to allocation policy

There will be ‘greater opportunity’ for single applicants and couples, and increased priority for those experiencing domestic abuse

Hjaltland's Grodians development in Lerwick. Photo: Hjaltland Housing Association
Hjaltland Housing Association's Grodians development in Lerwick. Photo: Hjaltland Housing Association

HJALTLAND Housing Association is to adjust its policy for allocating houses to offer “greater opportunity” for single applicants and couples in rural areas following a “significant” consultation exercise.

The housing association said it was due to implement a number of measures to help address housing need across the islands and that the new alterations would increase options for single applicants and couples who will now be eligible to be considered for any two-bedroom, three-person property outwith Lerwick, Scalloway and Tingwall.

Additionally, in a bid to “assist with creating sustainable communities, especially in more rural areas”, applicants living and working in the locale where they are applying will receive additional points.

Other adjustments will see increased priority given to those experiencing domestic abuse, those leaving the care system, and any applicant currently in temporary accommodation with Shetland Islands Council.

The housing association said the changes would supplement an extensive new-build programme.

It is currently on site in four locations across Shetland – Sandwick, Gulberwick, Scalloway and Lerwick – to deliver a further 62 in-demand affordable homes.

Hjaltland Housing Association chief executive Bryan Leask said: “At a time when it is increasingly difficult for first time buyers to take a step on the property ladder, this feels like the right moment to provide a little more flexibility in our allocation policy.

“Applicants in greatest housing need will continue to be prioritised, but this does offer single applicants and couples more opportunity to be allocated an association tenancy.”

All allocations from Monday (2 August) will be made in line with the revised allocation policy, the association added.

Under the plans people experiencing domestic abuse will now be given the maximum ‘social needs’ points towards a house move, while increased points will go to those who are moving from a location due to risk from an ex-partner or because a serious sexual assault occurred in the area.

The housing association said that “in light of serious risk to an applicant, and other household members, victims/survivors of domestic abuse should be supported through our allocation policy”.

Service manager at local domestic abuse charity Shetland Women’s Aid Laura Stronach welcomed the development.

Hjaltland also recently revised its domestic abuse policy to enhance the support available to survivors of domestic abuse.

Shetland Women’s Aid manager Laura Stronach.

“Shetland Women’s Aid staff, volunteers and survivors were delighted to be consulted recently as Hjaltland revised their Domestic Abuse Policy to enhance the support available to survivors of domestic abuse, and to be able to take part in the survey,” she said.

“I do believe the proposed amendments will be of benefit to the community in safeguarding those experiencing domestic abuse and gender-based violence.

“Hjaltland Housing are an active and valued member of the Shetland Domestic Abuse Partnership (SDAP) and of the Multi Agency Risk Assessment Conference (MARAC).

“When emergency accommodation is required for male or female victims of domestic abuse, who are fleeing a high-risk situation, they can be accommodated within Shetland Women’s Aid refuge.

“Where this is not appropriate or there are capacity issues, both Hjaltland and the SIC housing department who also are valued members of both groups, will and do find a safe space and the partnerships find solutions.

“Shetland MARAC is held in high regard as an efficient, well performing, respected mechanism in high-risk situations in Shetland.”

More information on the proposals and some of Hjaltland’s consultation responses can be found here.